New Ideal - Reason | Individualism | Capitalism
Dave Rubin and Tara Smith discuss "Taking Your Happiness Seriously"

Tara Smith on The Rubin Report: Happiness through Selfishness

In the latest in a series of interviews produced in collaboration with ARI, Dave Rubin sits down with ARI board member Tara Smith, professor of philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, to discuss what it means to really take your happiness seriously.

These days, we have access to a plethora of information and advice on how to achieve a happy life: self-help books, life hacks, and happiness coaches are just a few of the ways in which people seek this advice. But a crucial question often remains unanswered: What is happiness?

Ayn Rand defined the concept by saying that “happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values.” In this insightful interview, Dr. Smith, whose thought is informed by Rand’s perspective, fleshes out and concretizes the meaning of this definition, and provides us with a refreshing alternative to life hacks and happiness coaches: she argues that the key to a happy life is having the right philosophical ideas.

The idea that philosophy has powerful practical applications to everyday life is not a viewpoint we usually hear. Dr. Smith explains that having the right ideas is the basis of what we need to be happy, and that much of the unhappiness that people experience comes from working from philosophical starting points that actively get in the way of living a happy life.

The idea that philosophy has powerful practical applications to everyday life is not a viewpoint we usually hear.
For instance, we often hear that young people are supposed to pursue careers that will allow them to “give back” to society, for example, joining the Peace Corps after graduation. Is this really what we should do? Should we make our decisions based on others, or should we think of ourselves? Part of taking our happiness seriously means grappling with these questions. And, Dr. Smith argues, answering these questions means trying to develop the right philosophical ideas by thinking for yourself. She says that, ultimately, the right idea is that you need to determine what is good for you — which really means you need to be selfish about it.

Some other connected issues Dr. Smith discusses in this interview are:

  • Can selfish people be team players?
  • Are some people more easily disposed to be happy?
  • Can religious people hold those beliefs and still be truly happy?

In her conversation with Rubin, Dr. Smith comes across as the embodiment of the subject she is talking about: a happy, fulfilled person, who has applied the right philosophical ideas to her own life. Watch this delightful interview to learn about this unique viewpoint — and watch until the end to hear Dr. Smith’s answer to a perennial question about Ayn Rand’s ethics: Can helping others fit into the selfish pursuit of one’s own happiness? Her answer may surprise you.

Audio podcasts are available on iTunes and Stitcher.

Objectivism on Happiness (Rubin Report episode list):

In this episode, Onkar Ghate and Tara Smith delve into the question of how selfishness could possibly be a good thing — and why Rand is the only thinker who has dared to challenge the basic moral premises that have animated our culture for more than two thousand years. For more perspective, see the New Ideal announcement here. Audio podcasts are available on iTunes and Stitcher.
In this episode, Onkar Ghate explains why free will matters for one’s own life and happiness, and how human free will is consistent with the Law of Causality. He and Dave Rubin also discuss the effects of genes and environment on a person’s nature and choices of actions. For more perspective, see the New Ideal announcement here. Audio podcasts are available on iTunes and Stitcher.
In this episode, Dave Rubin has an in-depth discussion with Yaron Brook and Onkar Ghate about tribalism as a low form of collectivism. They examine its manifestations on the left and the right today, including “intersectionality” and “the oppression Olympics,” explaining how these are consequences of the moral code of altruism. They contrast all of that with the original American system, which was geared toward the rational, productive person pursuing his own happiness. For more perspective, see the New Ideal announcement here. Audio podcasts are available on iTunes and Stitcher.
In this episode, Onkar Ghate and Gregory Salmieri join Dave Rubin to discuss the moral and practical considerations involved in achieving one's own personal happiness. They discuss the Objectivist perspective on happiness as a flourishing and successful state of life and provide guidance on how to create a happy life that is a purposeful, meaningful and integrated whole. In discussing free will, they examine what is and what is not within an individual's control. The discussion also encompasses related topics such as how a deep sense of meaning is possible in a world without God. For more perspective, see the New Ideal announcement here. Audio podcasts are available on iTunes and Stitcher.
In this episode, Gregory Salmieri and Harry Binswanger talk with Dave Rubin about Binswanger’s experience knowing Ayn Rand personally, why Ayn Rand’s ideas continue to generate the strong reactions they do — and Objectivism’s novel view of the relationship between facts and values. For more perspective, see the New Ideal announcement here. Audio podcasts are available on iTunes and Stitcher.
In this episode, Tara Smith talks with Dave Rubin about what it means to take one’s happiness seriously. Smith discusses the objective requirements of flourishing, the role of the ideas one accepts in one’s pursuit of happiness, and what it means to be self-interested in the pursuit of team goals or relationships. Audio podcasts are available on iTunes and Stitcher. For more perspective see the New Ideal announcement.
In this episode, Yaron Brook and Gena Gorlin talk with Dave Rubin about what it takes to live a meaningful life. Among the topics discussed: why a career purpose is so important, and how to navigate the challenges inherent in a career; why deep engagement with art can be such a powerful inspiration; and why rationality is not only compatible with romantic love, but a necessary condition for it. For more perspective, see the New Ideal announcement here. Audio podcasts are available on iTunes and Stitcher.
In this episode, Harry Binswanger speaks one-on-one with Dave Rubin about Objectivism’s view of truth, objectivity and self-interest — and why these concepts matter outside the philosophy classroom. Other topics of discussion include Binswanger’s experience hearing Ayn Rand speak for the first time, and how that lecture affected the course of his life; how to answer a skeptic who claims there is no objective truth; and why Objectivism considers self-sacrifice to be immoral. For more perspective, see the New Ideal announcement here. Audio podcasts are available on iTunes and Stitcher.
In this episode, Yaron Brook joins Dave Rubin to discuss why Ayn Rand and her ideas matter today. Brook explains the unique value Objectivism brings to today’s intellectual landscape — and how Rand’s vision of what it looks like to achieve a truly happy, fulfilling life has inspired generations of idealistic young people to gravitate toward her. For more perspective, see the New Ideal announcement here. Audio podcasts are available on iTunes and Stitcher.
In this episode, philosopher Gregory Salmieri and psychologist Gena Gorlin talk with Dave Rubin about the psychological requirements of happiness. Among the topics discussed: what it means to treat happiness as a process, not just an outcome; the difference between Rand’s view of the pursuit of happiness and the “hedonic treadmill” notion of pursuing shallow pleasures that never truly satisfy; how having a central purpose can resolve internal conflicts; and how to find a sense of meaning in life. For more perspective, see the New Ideal announcement here. Audio podcasts are available on iTunes and Stitcher.
In this episode, John Allison and Dave Rubin discuss the role of philosophy in Allison’s business success. Ranked by Harvard Business Review among the world’s 100 most successful CEOs over the last decade, Allison explains how a business culture built upon Objectivist virtues helped his company, BB&T Corporation, to successfully navigate the 2008 financial crisis, growing in assets from $4.5 billion to $152 billion during his tenure. Audio podcasts are available at iTunes and Stitcher.
In the final episode of the series, philosopher Gregory Salmieri joins Dave Rubin for a big-picture discussion of today’s political culture. Salmieri compares the ugly aspects of our political situation with those of the past and gives advice about how to navigate it in a more positive way. Among other topics discussed: whether it’s important to “get good people into politics,” how to think about the “lesser of two evils,” whether the media is more biased today than in the past, and how to be a better consumer of news. Audio podcasts are available on iTunes and Stitcher.
READ ALSO:  The Destructive Illusion of Moral Authority

Subscribe to New Ideal to receive the latest in-depth content from ARI.

Share this article:

Agustina Vergara Cid

Agustina Vergara Cid, LL.B. and LL.M., is a junior fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute.

Updates from New Ideal

 

Ayn Rand University App

Explore unique philosophical content that challenges conventional views — in courses you can take on the go.

Available on Google Play and
the App Store.

A Must-Read from Elan Journo

What Justice Demands: America and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict defies conventional views on the issue and shows what’s at stake if you value freedom and progress.

learn more